Exercise: A More Effective Approach Than Medications for Managing Depression, Study Finds

Studies have demonstrated physical activity to be 1.5 times more effective at managing depression than medications or counseling, according to a review involving 128,119 participants from 1039 trials and 97 reviews. Physical activity shows significant benefits in helping reduce feelings of distress, anxiety and depression.

The review revealed that exercise treatments of 12 weeks or less were most successful in alleviating mental health symptoms, demonstrating the speed with which physical activity can result in change.

Individuals suffering from depression, postpartum and pregnant women, healthy people, as well as those diagnosed with kidney disease or HIV showed the greatest benefits from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

According to WHO estimates, approximately one out of every eight individuals worldwide lives with mental illness and costs the global economy approximately $2.5 trillion each year – this number could grow closer to $6 trillion within several years.

Researchers recommend prioritizing physical activity for managing the increasing number of mental health disorder cases.

Physical activity has long been recognized for helping to enhance mental wellbeing, yet despite evidence demonstrating its efficacy as a first-choice treatment option.

This review indicates that physical activity treatments are effective at significantly reducing anxiety and depression symptoms in all population groups; with certain groups showing even more dramatic improvements.

Exercise of higher intensity was more successful in improving anxiety and depression symptoms; longer duration exercise had less of an effect than short and mid-duration workouts.

Studies found that all forms of exercise and physical activity were beneficial, including aerobic exercises like yoga, Pilates, resistance training and walking.

Researchers found that exercise does not take much to make a noticeable improvement to one’s mental health.

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